Go Rando is part of the recently opened exhibition “This Site is Under Revolution” at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Part of the 6th International Biennale of for Young Art, the exhibition “explores the power of minimal gestures to re-appropriate the virtual realm, critique and challenge uneven ways of representation that perpetuate dominant conventions based of privileged minorities.” The show is up through 22 July, and is curated by Barbara Cueto. Lots more info here.
I’m pleased to share that my work Go Rando has been shortlisted for the net based award from H3K, the Haus der elektronischen Künste in Basel, Switzerland! Ten works are on the list, and I’m happy to be amongst many friends with fabulous works, including Nicolas Maigret, Maria Roszkowska, Jan Robert Leegte, Sebastian Schmieg, Annie Abrahams, and Owen Mundy.
According to H3K’s description, the “net based” award was:
…launched as a new prize in Switzerland, [and] aims to draw attention to the Internet as a platform for artistic activities and to make innovative web-based projects or projects inspired by the Internet accessible to a broader public; at the same time, it aims to raise the visibility of the Swiss scene in this genre, and to promote international exchange. It is to the Internet as the site for art production and as a medium for distribution that the new prize is dedicated. The prize aims to promote net based art and innovative net culture.
The 2018 Jury members are Josephine Bosma, Christophe Guignard, Valérie Perrin, Raffael Dörig, and Sabine Himmelsbach.
Following up on a previous article that included my work, Fast Company posted a follow-up focused on a number of my works. Titled You Could Delete Your Social Media; You Could Also Turn it Into Art, Co.Design’s Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan wrote:
Install some of Grosser’s work, or listen to him talk about it, and you’ll discover a subtle shift in the way you think about life online. His work wedges itself between your actual identity and your online identity, sometimes creating chaos, other times revealing something about an otherwise inscrutable algorithm.
Campbell-Dollaghan talks about Facebook Demetricator, Go Rando, ScareMail, and Twitter Demetricator, as well as some of my Facebook news feed experiments. It’s a great piece that demonstrates an unusually careful analysis uncommon in the tech-focused press.
I’ve been meaning to share that several of my works are discussed within the recently published book Technologies of Vision: The War Between Data and Images. Written by Steve F Anderson, he argues that:
… data and images are not an oppositional binary but rather complementary—at times even congruent—existing in a dynamic interplay that drives technological development and media making both in and outside of the entertainment industries. The premise of the book is that understanding the evolving relationship between data and images offers a key to thinking critically about media and technology in the politics of everyday life.
Steve talks about my works Computers Watching Movies and Interactive Robotic Painting Machine, and, happily, images from Computers Watching Movies are on the front and back cover. I’m a big fan of Steve’s work, so am quite happy to be able to share this! The book is published by MIT Press, and is available direct from them, as well as from Amazon.
[Grosser] built several Chrome extensions that throw Facebook’s carefully honed algorithms into chaos—like lobbing a digital smoke bomb on your News Feed.
Might have to put that in my bio :) Read the full article here.
In the wake of the latest news about Cambridge Analytica, I spoke with The Washington Post yesterday. In an article titled Facebook is experimenting on you. Here’s how you can run an experiment on it, Abby Ohlheiser wrote:
Moments of crisis like these prompt soul searching. If you’re one of those wondering, in the days since this scandal, why you give so much information to Facebook in the first place — or even if you should quit the site altogether — Grosser has a series of tools that can help you interrogate what it is that Facebook has done to you.
Read the full article: Facebook is experimenting on you. Here’s how you can run an experiment on it.
Without really meaning to, I’d been glossing over tweets that had relatively few likes and paying extra attention to those that had many. I had even subconsciously developed a sort of multiplier for various Twitter users based on the size of their followings, so that a tweet by a relatively obscure user that garnered 10 likes would stand out in my feed more than one by a famous user that got 100 likes. And in threads with lots of replies, I had been checking like counts as though they were an official scorecard of who was “winning” the conversation.
Later, he reflects on his experience:
…you might be surprised at how drastically you can change your Facebook or Twitter experience just by hiding a few little numbers. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to comprehend just how central metrics are to the Twitter experience until you install Demetricator. Only when I tried it did I realize that my eyes were instinctively flicking to a tweet’s retweet and favorite counters before I even processed the tweet itself. Only when I tried Demetricator did I understand how much I relied on those signals to evaluate a tweet—not only its popularity or reach, but its value.
Will contextualizes his impressions within the current moment, when social media companies are under siege for their roles in everything from their effects on mental health to the ways they were weaponized in the recent US election.
I’ve been reading Will’s writing for years, as he’s one of the best journalists out there analyzing technology from a broader perspective. I encourage you to read the whole piece.
I had a great time talking with Nora Young of CBC Radio’s program Spark. We talk about social media metrics, what a number means (or doesn’t), and about hiding them on Twitter with Twitter Demetricator.
My latest project, Twitter Demetricator, is a browser extension that removes all visible metrics from the Twitter interface. On the day of its release, the work was also the subject of a fantastic article in The New Yorker by author David Zweig. David spent a few weeks with the work as part of a private beta test, and then artfully reflected on his experience. I recommend you read the whole text, but here’s an excerpt:
After three weeks of using the Demetricator, the nature of Twitter, for me, changed completely. In some ways, it became lonelier. Part of the fun had been feeling like part of a crowd, seeing a joke or an idea or an observation become something that fifty people, or fifty thousand, could share. But I’m willing to accept the loss of this superficial sense of community for all the gains. Not seeing any numbers at all made content itself the king. I came to appreciate, disconcertingly, that knowing what was popular before had not only often distorted but also sometimes completely overtaken my experience. With the numbers gone, I realized that they, indeed, had forced a sort of automated experience, guiding and constraining my behavior.
The way that Twitter’s visible metrics were helping David feel “like part of a crowd” is one of my interests with this new Demetricator. While Twitter’s like, retweet, and follower metrics are similar—in principle—to Facebook’s like, share, and friend metrics, there’s definitely some important differences in how these metrics engineer user experience. On Facebook, likes/shares/etc are mostly constrained in size by one’s “friend” network, while on Twitter they are unconstrained. At any time, any Tweet’s metrics could reach not just into the hundreds of likes, but into the thousands or even millions. I’m guessing the sheer scale of this potential reaction activates our “desire for more” well beyond what users experience with Facebook. How does this expanded scale of potential reaction affect what David describes as a numbers-driven “automated experience” that guides and constrains behavior? That’s one of the questions I’ll be thinking about in the coming weeks.
“Inside the Fluffy Filter Bubble” – On risks and side-effects of cat pictures and other comfort zones. The whole Filmwinter team of Wand 5 e.V., the festival’s support association, shouts: “Let’s dive into the fluffy filter bubble!” With this edition, the Festival is diving deeply into the comfort zones and perception bubbles in which our lives are taking place. The festival’s core is made up of the best submissions from the international competition categories of short film, Media in Space and Network Culture. On the festival’s closing day, jurors will award prizes with a total amount of 9,000 euros. A comprehensive supporting programme as well as numerous events for children and youths will round up the festival.
The Festival, which is directed by Marcus Kohlbach, Ivonne Richter and Giovanna Thiery, runs through 11 Feb, 2018. See the full program and more.
My work Assorted Vision: The Matrix (Hue) will be screened as part of The 8th Day | Human Created Machine, a special screening event of the 2018 Athens Digital Arts Festival. Curated by Elli Anna Peristeraki (head of curatorial) and Eirini Olympiou (video art curator), the event focuses on works “that explore both utopian and dystopian views on the future of art, technology and science.”
This piece is one part of a much larger, in-progress work called Autonomous Video Artist, a self-propelled, self-navigating video capture robot that gathers its own video, evaluates it, edits it into artworks, and posts them online. Read more about the work, and/or more about the Athens Digital Arts Festival.
I’m excited to be giving an invited talk this Friday at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. My title and abstract:
Less Metrics, More Rando: (Net) Art as Software Research
How are numbers on Facebook changing what we “like” and who we “friend?” Why does a bit of nonsense sent via email scare both your mom and the NSA? What makes someone mad when they learn Google can’t see where they stand? From net art to robotics to supercuts to e-lit, Ben Grosser will discuss several artworks that illustrate his methods for investigating the culture of software.
The talk is part of their Research Colloquium series, and is hosted by Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Parris Westbrook. Coming up this Friday, January 19, 1-2pm in room 708, 243 S. Wabash Ave. Chicago.
My work Touching Software (House of Cards) will be a part of CYFEST, screening this Thursday at the NY Media Center in Brooklyn, NY. The festival, curated by Victoria Ilyushkina, is an international media art festival organized by Cyland, an art/tech group and lab from St. Petersburg, Russia. After this fall event in NYC, the festival moves to Russia for the winter (date TBA). Read more about the festival here.
Go Rando is part of this year’s Piksel exhibition in Bergen, Norway. Under the theme of “We Take EmoCoin!”, this year’s event:
“…points to the new capital: our emotions. Emotions has become the new coin. Emotions can be measured, monitored and monetized in almost real time. Together with our use of social networks, technology is also investing in bio-sensing the body to collect our bio-data. So, we ourselves with our public online behaviour and our stored bio-signals, visualized and interfaced, create a direct link between emotions and money.”
I could hardly think of a better fit for Go Rando than this! Very happy to be a part of it. It runs from 16-18 Nov, and is directed/curated by Gisle Frøysland and Maite Cajaraville.
Starting tomorrow night, I have a new invited work launching as part of NXS, an experimental publication from Amsterdam that “aims to explore the emotional and sensual side of hardware, software and algorithms that normally have been assessed by their functionality, aesthetics and ethics.” This new issue is #2 under the theme of Synthetic Selves. Each contribution to NXS is created in succession, and typically based on the two most previous. As the last one in the chain before publication, I asked the editors for all previous entries and then wrote software to generate a new text based on the rest. I also created a sound work (a synthetic reading of the text) that will screen as part of the launch events in Amsterdam tomorrow and Berlin next week.
Artists/theorists contributing include: Armen Avanessian, Hannah Barton, Karolien Buurman, Gilles De Brock, Ivan Cheng, Kim de Groot, Ben Grosser, Andrea Karch, Kristýna Kulíková, Geoffrey Lillemon, Geert Lovink, Aaron McLaughlin, Dr. Alberto Micali, Shintaro Miyazaki, Nina Power, Daniel Rourke, Sophia Seawell, Marloes de Valk, Keith J. Varadi. NXS is edited by Monika Gruzite, Juliette Lizotte, and Florian Mecklenburg.